In the future, smart phones could work as car keys

Hyundai\'s Connectivity Concept shows a new use for a smart phone.

The conventional car key as we know it is doomed.

The nail in the coffin: A new Hyundai concept car based on the automaker's global-market i30 hatchback demonstrates the ability to turn a mobile smart phone into a car key capable of entering and starting a car directly.

The demise of standard keys has been a long time in the making: First, standard metal keys were replaced by chunky fobs, a move that integrated remote controls into a single unit and increased vehicle security. Today, proximity keys that let drivers keep the fob in their pocket or purse to lock, unlock and start a car have become commonplace on even the least expensive cars on the market.

Unlike some connectivity systems - like General Motors' OnStar system - the Hyundai Connectivity Concept uses a Near Field Communication - or NFC - tag located on the hatchback's windows to communicate directly with the phone. Whereas OnStar and other similar systems requires users to open an app, which then communicates with a satellite, to control their cars, the Hyundai concept essentially integrates the key fob's security chip into a smartphone.

Taking things a step even further, the Hyundai system pulls up the user's profile, so settings like audio, climate and phonebook entries are automatically put in place before the driver even pushes the starter button.

A charging pad integrated into the console keeps the phone's battery topped up.

Of course, there are a few hurdles Hyundai needs to overcome - like the presence of more than one smartphone linked to the car and the possibility that the phone's battery might be dead.

But for now, Hyundai and partner Broadcom say that the connectivity could be in production vehicles as soon as 2015.

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